Insects

Call to report sightings of caterpillar with 'toxic hairs'

Jersey residents are being encouraged to report any sightings of oak processionary caterpillars this summer.

The caterpillars - measuring 2-3cm (about 1in) - march in long processions to treetops at night, and can wreak havoc in oak trees, as they feast on the young leaves.

One mature caterpillar has up to 700,000 hairs, which can be spread by the wind, and these can cause a severe skin irritation or allergic reaction in humans and other animals.

The caterpillars also build silken nests, which are 10-30cm (4-12in) and white/off-white to brown in colour, and cover the tree in their tiny invisible hairs.

So anyone working as a tree surgeons, in forestry or as ground-care workers should wear full protective clothing, the Government of Jersey has advised.

The caterpillars turn into pupae, then moths in late July, and the threat diminishes.

Oak processionary caterpillars
Government of Jersey

The species was accidentally introduced to Jersey approximately 10 years ago and is classed as a statutory invasive species.

There have been very few sightings to date, but we feel it is important to make the public aware. So, if you suspect you have seen a nest or the caterpillars in an oak tree, try and get a picture but don’t approach too closely and call it in."

Scott MeadowsJersey's Head of Biosecurity

Sightings should be reported to the Environment Department by emailing Environment@gov.je.

Anyone with a severe reaction or who is uncertain what has caused their rash should consult their GP.

More details on the caterpillars are available on the government's website.

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